Gunfire and explosion reported on 14 Riverside Drive off Chiromo Road, Nairobi, four cars destroyed; police on site. (KTN)
A gunfight was underway following a blast at a hotel and office complex in a leafy Nairobi neighbourhood on Tuesday. Witnesses and police at the scene are calling it a terror attack. The complex in Nairobi includes a large hotel known as DusitD2, banks, and offices, reports news agency Associated Press. “We are under attack,” a person in an office inside a complex in the DusitD2 hotel told news agency Reuters, then hung up. Local television showed smoke rising from the area. “I just started hearing gunshots, and then started seeing people running away raising their hands up and some were entering the bank to hide for their lives,” a woman working in a neighbouring building told the news agency. She also heard two explosions, she said.
Simon Crump, who works at one of the offices, said workers had barricaded themselves inside their offices after "several" explosions. "We have no idea what is happening. Gunshots are coming from multiple directions," he told news agency AFP, adding that the people were terrified. Police sirens echoed through the city and a helicopter buzzed overhead. A reporter sent to the scene said the gunmen and security forces were exchanging gunfire. "There was a bomb, there is a lot of gunfire," whispered another man working at the compound, asking not to be named.
Terrorists group Al-Shabaab officially claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack came exactly three years after the deadly Al-Shabaab attack on Kenya military base in Somalia’s El-Adde town where about 140 Kenya soldiers were killed.
Nairobi police commander Philip Ndolo said officers had cordoned off the area around Riverside Drive due to a suspected robbery.
“We have to go for the highest incident that could take place. The highest incident we have is a terror [attack],” he told Citizen Television.
Gunfire continued several minutes after the first reports and black smoke was rising from the scene.
“We have sent officers to the scene, including from the anti-terrorism unit, but so far we have no more information,” said police spokesman Charles Owino. Ambulances and security forces have also rushed to the scene.
Police spokesman Charles Owino said: "All police teams including anti-terror officers are at the scene." Flames and plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky from the parking lot of the compound where several vehicles were on fire, with scores of people fleeing the compound, some of them lightly injured.
The scenes in the Westlands suburb reminded Nairobians of a bloody terrorist attack in 2013 when Islamist gunmen stormed the Westgate mall, killing at least 67 people. The country faced a spate of attacks after it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight the Islamist Shabaab group, affiliated to Al-Qaeda. On April 2, 2015, another Shabaab attack killed 148 people at the university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.